One might conclude that political ads and PR is one of a contending campaign’s biggest assets to the public — and the obvious fuel to this fire is money. 

And as we continue to notice the numerous left or right attack ads in what seems like every commercial break we run across, the press can’t help but link this back to their big story, Obama’s 66 million dollars in August. And this is perfectly on the spot — you essentially can’t go anywhere to the left or right (online or on your feet) without being swarmed with donation and fundraising opportunities and events. Recently attending an Obama fundraiser, I was amazed with the amount of excess opportunities to buy and donate to the Obama/Biden camp, especially considering the amount of money it cost to get in the actual venue. 

But when looking at the outcome of all this money steadily flowing into the Democrat’s hands, it begs a comment which has been screaming in my head for the last few days: “Is this what all this money is part of? Negative campaigning?” 

As a PR-focused political commenter, I understand that attack ads are merely defense from the latest opposing attacks, but as Karl Rove pointed out, the ads are really going to far. And although Rove may not be the brightest of politicians, his point is made clear. 

But in my view, the most essential thing here is the fact that the ads are virtually an input-output machine, with the input money, and the output a decline in the polls. 

I always look at a campaign in three stages, the first a reception, the second dinner, and the third a drunken bar fight. In more clarity — the candidates spend the beginning of their campaign introducing themselves, the second sitting down and watching the effects throughout the primaries, and the third picking fights and running negative attack ads. And although this has proven to work in the past, a change in politics is in my view essential to winning the campaign. 

So why, then, it is that as Obama keeps listing the lies of McCain’s attacks, the left slips in the polls? America doesn’t like disputes, they like answers. And so this back and fourth attack — defense media battle thus acts as an eclipse to regular politics, and further lets the conservatives ride on Sarah Palin’s media wave, perhaps right into the White House.

This is also comparable to a basketball game where one team is winning by 5 points. The other team may score, but the leading squad (in this case the McCain camp) will always return with another two points. And although the first team keeps scoring, they will always be down by five points, and in the end, losing the game. 

My point? Although Obama may speak the truth in his attacks, he must sacrifice a good reputation if he wants the White House next Spring. 

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In a game hyped beyond belief, stuffed with politics analogies as well as a standing basketball turning point, not only did the US prevail, but they did so in such an effortless fashion it made the Chinese look like they were suddenly playing for second place. The US players floated down the court, and had two options – pass the ball to their guards for them to embarrass the inexperienced Chinese defenders or dump the ball into the post and watch Dwight Howard’s carnage. It was such a blowout, by the end of the game the US players were getting fancy with behind the back and twisting passes, mostly fans weren’t contempt with the US team flat out scoring. At any time during the game, if a Chinese player made any sort of nice move and finished it either with a layup, dunk, or a three pointer got the entire bench complete with everyone from China’s coaching staff to the Chinese models that normally just stand there and smile jumping for joy and pumping their fists.

So now that it is clear China still has work to do in basketball, why isn’t the USA back to their normal selves? They passed their test and demolished the famed Chinese dream team, with all 15 people on their team personally stabbing China’s basketball coffin. So why aren’t they credible any more? Is it because this was just a first round game? No. My answer? They haven’t faced Greece yet, plain and simple. Why? They is the perfect team to beat America — under the radar, sly, non-advertised, and good. They aren’t my pick for the gold, but they sure are contenders that the USA needs to watch out for – if they come into a game with them in their normal cocky, bulldozer attitude their going to snatch that gold medal off of their necks like they did in 2004.

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Having seen quite a lot of sporting events, and naturally, quite a lot of opening ceremonies, I must admit I was pretty amazed watching this year’s Olympic Opening ceremony. It was huge, involving thousands of people, but it was also very simple and artistic. From the blimp camera view, the shapes that the many thousands of humans made were breathtaking (my favorite was a bird which flapped its wings multiple times). The dancers were skilled and quick, and their overall performance was brilliantly choreographed. The fireworks were amazing, all their detail was displayed individually. The opening ceremony was (you could say) perfect, with amazing technology, great music, and risky acrobatics that was flawlessly executed via thousands of headphones, remote controls, and intense determination behind the scenes. 

But I didn’t like it.

Why? How could you just dismiss a flawless performance that took years of preparation and thousands of people to perform? In truth, it was perfect, but to me, and probably to many other people, it was expected. Let’s face it — the Chinese are master performers, they are as skilled, acrobatic, and dedicated as anyone else out there, but this would be their stereotypical performance. Just think about it. If someone told you that the Chinese were going to put on a performance for billions of people, and they could use all the people and money they pleased, this is what you would expect — and this is what we got. It was the best performance I have ever seen — and call me spoiled — but it wasn’t unique. It wasn’t different, it wasn’t simple, and it could have been. I enjoyed watching the ceremony, but I still think they could have done better. Better, but not with more people and money. Call me crazy, but I think the perfect Olympic Opening Ceremony should involve not involve dancers and acrobats, but all the athletes participating in the actual games. 

Let’s face it — to make it to the olympics, you don’t just need to be good at your sport, you need to be legendary. And everyone in the olympics is skilled, in shape, and experienced in entertainment. It would be exciting to have all the athletes’ best skills incorporated into the performance. It would be a fresh idea, it would be hilarious (some of the athletes would probably slip up or add some humor into it), and it would be great to see your favorite player perform. It would be like a professional dancing with the stars, and I think it would be entertaining for the viewers. Its just an opinion, but I think it would work.

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In past years, USA basketball has come into big competitions with high expectations, and after “shockingly” being beaten by teams that trained together the entire year for these moments, one might wonder if they are destined to lose unless they play with a team’s mentality. Can this country, blessed with the most talented basketball players the world has to offer, ever assemble a group of ball-players to compare with Jordan’s historic 1992 Barcelona squad? Is this Coach K’s year to make a gold medal team? Can America put aside its troubles and rivalries, and instead of playing for themselves, play for the world? Is this their year? All signs point yes, but what do I think? No. And I’ll tell you why.

In today’s basketball, more and more of our best players are assembling overseas, and less are developing in America. Our young american players grow up under a coach’s eye, each and every one of them with tremendous talent, but most totally uncoachable. And this is the exact opposite over in Europe, with great, coachable team player being mass produced like Toyota Prius’s. So unless America can get it together NOW and play for the common prize, a gold medal (which I don’t think is going to happen this year), our future looks dim.

In contrast, the 1992 team consisting of the NBA’s legends who united once a year to play together as one, were much like Europe’s players today, but much more talented. Led by Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley, that team had depth too, their entire bench hand-picked from the nba’s greatest role players. Jordan, among his teammates, sacrificed points for assists (he rarely posted over 18 points in a game), and the team excelled more than any USA team could wish to do today (or ever again). My point is, unless the US can take away their star power and ego, we’re not going anywhere in the olympics. Do I think we can do it this year? Yes. Will we do it this year? No.

Professional sports is a business that thrives on its stars, some that are either skilled enough athletically or marketed well enough to end up as household names in places like China. And while these people sell tickets and fill seats, they don’t necessarily win, and sometimes, they even have a tendency to lose. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in my view about sports today – people expect the stars to perform well above their original standards. Being from the land of the Lakers, I have always followed my team as closely as possible. From attending Laker games from 2004 ‘till today, I have learned a lot, but most importantly, the only way they can actually win, with teamwork. In the year 2003, the Lakers stunk. If anyone remembers, with Kobe and Shaq feuding, team chemistry was not exactly blossoming. But that summer, Jerry Buss (the head of the club) brought in two wiser blockbuster players, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who both never had a championship ring and was making one last stretch to get one. The team flourished up until the finals, but I didn’t like their style one bit. It was essentially an all star game, where the fans would cheer only if Shaq made an amazing dunk, and remain silent when Kobe made a great assist to a role player. And as I predicted, they faltered in the finals against a team who played well together and didn’t have any overpaid superstars. That year ended up being the end of Karl Malone’s illustrious career and the end of Gary Payton’s Laker stint.

Another effect like this is what I like to call the Jordan Phenomenon.  Ever since his rookie season in 1984, Chicago Bulls fans always predicted that MJ would always have a game better than his last and expected him to always have a few great dunks and always assumed he was a robotic basketball freak that made virtually every shot he took. And this is what made him so great and famous – he did. By living up to those standards he created an unwritten rule, a prestigious group if you will that includes the only athletes that can handle the fan pressure and live above it. Members of this group include Kobe Bryant, Jessie Owens, Michael Phelps, and Hank Aaron, just to name a few. These people really fed off of the pressure and rose above it, but their teams (with the exception of Jessie Owens and Michael Phelps who are in a class alone) did not do as well as they did. They did rise to the occasion, but their teams didn’t win consistently. My point here is that to have a great team you need a group of human beings who know each-other’s athletic abilities and have chemistry together. You don’t necessarily need great players. 

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